He hasn’t been the target of attacks ads and he hasn’t run many ads at all. He’s not using taxpayers’ money to run his campaign but he is the third wealthiest of the three Republicans running for governor. He’s not from Fairfield County, he hasn’t been accused of being part of the current problem—the Rell administration—nor has he been accused of running his wife and child off the road with his car. Simsbury economic development professional Oz Griebel certainly set himself apart in the Republican gubernatorial debate hosted by WFSB-TV and CPBN (WNPR radio and CPTV). In fact, in this view, he clearly won.
Right from the beginning, former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley—the presumed frontrunner—and current Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele clobbered each other over the head with the same accusations they’ve been running in their negative attack ads on TV and radio. Foley accusing Fedele of supporting the largest tax increase in the state’s history and Fedele saying Foley is a corporate raider who bankrupted the nation’s largest textile producer.
Griebel, meanwhile, flew above the F-boys back and forth, giving specific answers and citing relevant work experience on issues such as differences with the Rell administration (tough one for Fedele to answer), Rell’s biggest failure (Griebel said it was her failure to veto the last budget), keeping college graduates here (Griebel cited his Hartford MetroAlliance’s creation of “HYPE”—Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs), the budget deficit, and taxes and tourism.
Fedele broke now new ground and struggled to distance himself from his boss, Gov. Rell. Foley seemed a bit listless but made the point that he has turned businesses around as an executive. But it was Griebel who probably connected best with the average Republican voter. In his closing, Griebel urged voters to choose him Tuesday because he represented a clean break from the Rell administration, because he carries no baggage coming into office and he has 17 years of experience in Connecticut trying to build up the state’s economic development. Those points alone may be reason for Republicans to support him.
One recurring theme through both the Democratic and Republican debates was the fact that all the candidates expect state employee to be a big part of the solution to the $3.4 billion deficit the state is in. Foley seems ready to lay-off workers—he faulted the governor’s “no lay-off” commitment. And the others hinted that they too, would seek concessions to one degree or another.